The Real Leadership Lessons of Steve JobsHis saga is the entrepreneurial creation myth writ large: Steve Jobs cofounded Apple in his parents’garage in 1976, was ousted in 1985, returned to rescue it from near bankruptcy in 1997, and by the timehe died, in October 2011, had built it into the world’s most valuable company. Along the way he helpedto transform seven industries: personal computing, animated movies, music, phones, tablet computing,retail stores, and digital publishing. He thus belongs in the pantheon of America’s great innovators,along with Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, and Walt Disney. None of these men was a saint, but long aftertheir personalities are forgotten, history will remember how they applied imagination to technology andbusiness.“The people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do.”—Apple’s “Think Different” commercial, 1997In the months since my biography of Jobs came out, countless commentators have tried to drawmanagement lessons from it. Some of those readers have been insightful, but I think that many of them(especially those with no experience in entrepreneurship) fixate too much on the rough edges of hispersonality. The essence of Jobs, I think, is that his personality was integral to his way of doing business.He acted as if the normal rules didn’t apply to him, and the passion, intensity, and extremeemotionalism he brought to everyday life were things he also poured into the products he made. Hispetulance and impatience were part and parcel of his perfectionism.One of the last times I saw him, after I had finished writing most of the book, I asked him again about histendency to be rough on people. “Look at the results,” he replied. “These are all smart people I workwith, and any of them could get a top job at another place if they were truly feeling brutalized. But theydon’t.” Then he paused for a few moments and said, almost wistfully, “And we got some amazing thingsdone.” Indeed, he and Apple had had a string of hits over the past dozen years that was greater thanthat of any other innovative company in modern times: iMac, iPod, iPod nano, iTunes Store, AppleStores, MacBook, iPhone, iPad, App Store, OS X Lion—not to mention every Pixar film. And as he battledhis final illness, Jobs was surrounded by an intensely loyal cadre of colleagues who had been inspired byhim for years and a very loving wife, sister, and four children.So I think the real lessons from Steve Jobs have to be drawn from looking at what he actuallyaccomplished. I once asked him what he thought was his most important creation, thinking he wouldanswer the iPad or the Macintosh. Instead he said it was Apple the company. Making an enduringcompany, he said, was both far harder and more important than making a great product. How did he doit? Business schools will be studying that question a century from now. Here are what I consider the keysto his success.Focus
When Jobs returned to Apple in 1997, it was producing a random array of computers and peripherals,including a dozen different versions of the Macintosh. After a few weeks of product review sessions,he’d finally had enough. “Stop!” he shouted. “This is crazy.” He grabbed a Magic Marker, padded in hisbare feet to a whiteboard, and drew a two-by-two grid. “Here’s what we need,” he declared. Atop thetwo columns, he wrote “Consumer” and “Pro.” He labeled the two rows “Desktop” and “Portable.” Theirjob, he told his team members, was to focus on four great products, one for each quadrant. All otherproducts should be canceled. There was a stunned silence. But by getting Apple to focus on making justfour computers, he saved the company. “Deciding what not to do is as important as deciding what todo,” he told me. “That’s true for companies, and it’s true for products.”After he righted the company, Jobs began taking his “top 100” people on a retreat each year. On the lastday, he would stand in front of a whiteboard (he loved whiteboards, because they gave him completecontrol of a situation and they engendered focus) and ask, “What are the 10 things we should be doingnext?” People would fight to get their suggestions on the list. Jobs would write them down—and thencross off the ones he decreed dumb. After much jockeying, the group would come up with a list of 10.Then Jobs would slash the bottom seven and announce, “We can only do three.”Focus was ingrained in Jobs’s personality and had been honed by his Zen training. He relentlessly filteredout what he considered distractions. Colleagues and family members would at times be exasperated asthey tried to get him to deal with issues—a legal problem, a medical diagnosis—they consideredimportant. But he would give a cold stare and refuse to shift his laserlike focus until he was ready.Near the end of his life, Jobs was visited at home by Larry Page, who was about to resume control ofGoogle, the company he had cofounded. Even though their companies were feuding, Jobs was willing togive some advice. “The main thing I stressed was focus,” he recalled. Figure out what Google wants tobe when it grows up, he told Page. “It’s now all over the map. What are the five products you want tofocus on? Get rid of the rest, because they’re dragging you down. They’re turning you into Microsoft.They’re causing you to turn out products that are adequate but not great.” Page followed the advice. InJanuary 2012 he told employees to focus on just a few priorities, such as Android and Google+, and tomake them “beautiful,” the way Jobs would have done.SimplifyJobs’s Zenlike ability to focus was accompanied by the related instinct to simplify things by zeroing in ontheir essence and eliminating unnecessary components. “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication,”declared Apple’s first marketing brochure. To see what that means, compare any Apple software with,say, Microsoft Word, which keeps getting uglier and more cluttered with nonintuitive navigationalribbons and intrusive features. It is a reminder of the glory of Apple’s quest for simplicity.Jobs learned to admire simplicity when he was working the night shift at Atari as a college dropout.Atari’s games came with no manual and needed to be uncomplicated enough that a stoned freshmancould figure them out. The only instructions for its Star Trek game were: “1. Insert quarter. 2. AvoidKlingons.” His love of simplicity in design was refined at design conferences he attended at the Aspen
Institute in the late 1970s on a campus built in the Bauhaus style, which emphasized clean lines andfunctional design devoid of frills or distractions.When Jobs visited Xerox’s Palo Alto Research Center and saw the plans for a computer that had agraphical user interface and a mouse, he set about making the design both more intuitive (his teamenabled the user to drag and drop documents and folders on a virtual desktop) and simpler. Forexample, the Xerox mouse had three buttons and cost $300; Jobs went to a local industrial design firmand told one of its founders, Dean Hovey, that he wanted a simple, single-button model that cost $15.Hovey complied.Jobs aimed for the simplicity that comes from conquering, rather than merely ignoring, complexity.Achieving this depth of simplicity, he realized, would produce a machine that felt as if it deferred tousers in a friendly way, rather than challenging them. “It takes a lot of hard work,” he said, “to makesomething simple, to truly understand the underlying challenges and come up with elegant solutions.”In Jony Ive, Apple’s industrial designer, Jobs met his soul mate in the quest for deep rather thansuperficial simplicity. They knew that simplicity is not merely a minimalist style or the removal of clutter.In order to eliminate screws, buttons, or excess navigational screens, it was necessary to understandprofoundly the role each element played. “To be truly simple, you have to go really deep,” Ive explained.“For example, to have no screws on something, you can end up having a product that is so convolutedand so complex. The better way is to go deeper with the simplicity, to understand everything about itand how it’s manufactured.”During the design of the iPod interface, Jobs tried at every meeting to find ways to cut clutter. Heinsisted on being able to get to whatever he wanted in three clicks. One navigation screen, for example,asked users whether they wanted to search by song, album, or artist. “Why do we need that screen?”Jobs demanded. The designers realized they didn’t. “There would be times when we’d rack our brains ona user interface problem, and he would go, ‘Did you think of this?’” says Tony Fadell, who led the iPodteam. “And then we’d all go, ‘Holy shit.’ He’d redefine the problem or approach, and our little problemwould go away.” At one point Jobs made the simplest of all suggestions: Let’s get rid of the on/offbutton. At first the team members were taken aback, but then they realized the button wasunnecessary. The device would gradually power down if it wasn’t being used and would spring to lifewhen reengaged.Likewise, when Jobs was shown a cluttered set of proposed navigation screens for iDVD, which allowedusers to burn video onto a disk, he jumped up and drew a simple rectangle on a whiteboard. “Here’s thenew application,” he said. “It’s got one window. You drag your video into the window. Then you click thebutton that says ‘Burn.’ That’s it. That’s what we’re going to make.”In looking for industries or categories ripe for disruption, Jobs always asked who was making productsmore complicated than they should be. In 2001 portable music players and ways to acquire songs onlinefit that description, leading to the iPod and the iTunes Store. Mobile phones were next. Jobs would graba phone at a meeting and rant (correctly) that nobody could possibly figure out how to navigate half thefeatures, including the address book. At the end of his career he was setting his sights on the television
industry, which had made it almost impossible for people to click on a simple device to watch what theywanted when they wanted.Take Responsibility End to EndJobs knew that the best way to achieve simplicity was to make sure that hardware, software, andperipheral devices were seamlessly integrated. An Apple ecosystem—an iPod connected to a Mac withiTunes software, for example—allowed devices to be simpler, syncing to be smoother, and glitches to berarer. The more complex tasks, such as making new playlists, could be done on the computer, allowingthe iPod to have fewer functions and buttons.Jobs and Apple took end-to-end responsibility for the user experience—something too few companiesdo. From the performance of the ARM microprocessor in the iPhone to the act of buying that phone inan Apple Store, every aspect of the customer experience was tightly linked together. Both Microsoft inthe 1980s and Google in the past few years have taken a more open approach that allows theiroperating systems and software to be used by various hardware manufacturers. That has sometimesproved the better business model. But Jobs fervently believed that it was a recipe for (to use histechnical term) crappier products. “People are busy,” he said. “They have other things to do than thinkabout how to integrate their computers and devices.”Being in the Apple ecosystem could be as sublime as walking in one of the Zen gardens of Kyoto thatJobs loved.Part of Jobs’s compulsion to take responsibility for what he called “the whole widget” stemmed from hispersonality, which was very controlling. But it was also driven by his passion for perfection and makingelegant products. He got hives, or worse, when contemplating the use of great Apple software onanother company’s uninspired hardware, and he was equally allergic to the thought that unapprovedapps or content might pollute the perfection of an Apple device. It was an approach that did not alwaysmaximize short-term profits, but in a world filled with junky devices, inscrutable error messages, andannoying interfaces, it led to astonishing products marked by delightful user experiences. Being in theApple ecosystem could be as sublime as walking in one of the Zen gardens of Kyoto that Jobs loved, andneither experience was created by worshipping at the altar of openness or by letting a thousand flowersbloom. Sometimes it’s nice to be in the hands of a control freak.When Behind, LeapfrogThe mark of an innovative company is not only that it comes up with new ideas first. It also knows howto leapfrog when it finds itself behind. That happened when Jobs built the original iMac. He focused onmaking it useful for managing a user’s photos and videos, but it was left behind when dealing withmusic. People with PCs were downloading and swapping music and then ripping and burning their ownCDs. The iMac’s slot drive couldn’t burn CDs. “I felt like a dope,” he said. “I thought we had missed it.”But instead of merely catching up by upgrading the iMac’s CD drive, he decided to create an integratedsystem that would transform the music industry. The result was the combination of iTunes, the iTunes
Store, and the iPod, which allowed users to buy, share, manage, store, and play music better than theycould with any other devices.After the iPod became a huge success, Jobs spent little time relishing it. Instead he began to worry aboutwhat might endanger it. One possibility was that mobile phone makers would start adding music playersto their handsets. So he cannibalized iPod sales by creating the iPhone. “If we don’t cannibalizeourselves, someone else will,” he said.Put Products Before ProfitsWhen Jobs and his small team designed the original Macintosh, in the early 1980s, his injunction was tomake it “insanely great.” He never spoke of profit maximization or cost trade-offs. “Don’t worry aboutprice, just specify the computer’s abilities,” he told the original team leader. At his first retreat with theMacintosh team, he began by writing a maxim on his whiteboard: “Don’t compromise.” The machinethat resulted cost too much and led to Jobs’s ouster from Apple. But the Macintosh also “put a dent inthe universe,” as he said, by accelerating the home computer revolution. And in the long run he got thebalance right: Focus on making the product great and the profits will follow.John Sculley, who ran Apple from 1983 to 1993, was a marketing and sales executive from Pepsi. Hefocused more on profit maximization than on product design after Jobs left, and Apple graduallydeclined. “I have my own theory about why decline happens at companies,” Jobs told me: They makesome great products, but then the sales and marketing people take over the company, because they arethe ones who can juice up profits. “When the sales guys run the company, the product guys don’tmatter so much, and a lot of them just turn off. It happened at Apple when Sculley came in, which wasmy fault, and it happened when Ballmer took over at Microsoft.”When Jobs returned, he shifted Apple’s focus back to making innovative products: the sprightly iMac,the PowerBook, and then the iPod, the iPhone, and the iPad. As he explained, “My passion has been tobuild an enduring company where people were motivated to make great products. Everything else wassecondary. Sure, it was great to make a profit, because that was what allowed you to make greatproducts. But the products, not the profits, were the motivation. Sculley flipped these priorities towhere the goal was to make money. It’s a subtle difference, but it ends up meaning everything—thepeople you hire, who gets promoted, what you discuss in meetings.”Don’t Be a Slave To Focus GroupsWhen Jobs took his original Macintosh team on its first retreat, one member asked whether they shoulddo some market research to see what customers wanted. “No,” Jobs replied, “because customers don’tknow what they want until we’ve shown them.” He invoked Henry Ford’s line “If I’d asked customerswhat they wanted, they would have told me, ‘A faster horse!’”Caring deeply about what customers want is much different from continually asking them what theywant; it requires intuition and instinct about desires that have not yet formed. “Our task is to readthings that are not yet on the page,” Jobs explained. Instead of relying on market research, he honed his
version of empathy—an intimate intuition about the desires of his customers. He developed hisappreciation for intuition—feelings that are based on accumulated experiential wisdom—while he wasstudying Buddhism in India as a college dropout. “The people in the Indian countryside don’t use theirintellect like we do; they use their intuition instead,” he recalled. “Intuition is a very powerful thing—more powerful than intellect, in my opinion.”Sometimes that meant that Jobs used a one-person focus group: himself. He made products that he andhis friends wanted. For example, there were many portable music players around in 2000, but Jobs feltthey were all lame, and as a music fanatic he wanted a simple device that would allow him to carry athousand songs in his pocket. “We made the iPod for ourselves,” he said, “and when you’re doingsomething for yourself, or your best friend or family, you’re not going to cheese out.”Bend RealityJobs’s (in)famous ability to push people to do the impossible was dubbed by colleagues his RealityDistortion Field, after an episode of Star Trek in which aliens create a convincing alternative realitythrough sheer mental force. An early example was when Jobs was on the night shift at Atari and pushedSteve Wozniak to create a game called Breakout. Woz said it would take months, but Jobs stared at himand insisted he could do it in four days. Woz knew that was impossible, but he ended up doing it.Jobs’s (in)famous ability to push people to do the impossible was dubbed by colleagues his RealityDistortion Field, after an episode of Star Trek.Those who did not know Jobs interpreted the Reality Distortion Field as a euphemism for bullying andlying. But those who worked with him admitted that the trait, infuriating as it might be, led them toperform extraordinary feats. Because Jobs felt that life’s ordinary rules didn’t apply to him, he couldinspire his team to change the course of computer history with a small fraction of the resources thatXerox or IBM had. “It was a self-fulfilling distortion,” recalls Debi Coleman, a member of the original Macteam who won an award one year for being the employee who best stood up to Jobs. “You did theimpossible because you didn’t realize it was impossible.”One day Jobs marched into the cubicle of Larry Kenyon, the engineer who was working on theMacintosh operating system, and complained that it was taking too long to boot up. Kenyon started toexplain why reducing the boot-up time wasn’t possible, but Jobs cut him off. “If it would save a person’slife, could you find a way to shave 10 seconds off the boot time?” he asked. Kenyon allowed that heprobably could. Jobs went to a whiteboard and showed that if five million people were using the Macand it took 10 seconds extra to turn it on every day, that added up to 300 million or so hours a year—theequivalent of at least 100 lifetimes a year. After a few weeks Kenyon had the machine booting up 28seconds faster.When Jobs was designing the iPhone, he decided that he wanted its face to be a tough, scratchproofglass, rather than plastic. He met with Wendell Weeks, the CEO of Corning, who told him that Corninghad developed a chemical exchange process in the 1960s that led to what it dubbed “Gorilla glass.” Jobsreplied that he wanted a major shipment of Gorilla glass in six months. Weeks said that Corning was not
making the glass and didn’t have that capacity. “Don’t be afraid,” Jobs replied. This stunned Weeks, whowas unfamiliar with Jobs’s Reality Distortion Field. He tried to explain that a false sense of confidencewould not overcome engineering challenges, but Jobs had repeatedly shown that he didn’t accept thatpremise. He stared unblinking at Weeks. “Yes, you can do it,” he said. “Get your mind around it. You cando it.” Weeks recalls that he shook his head in astonishment and then called the managers of Corning’sfacility in Harrodsburg, Kentucky, which had been making LCD displays, and told them to convertimmediately to making Gorilla glass full-time. “We did it in under six months,” he says. “We put our bestscientists and engineers on it, and we just made it work.” As a result, every piece of glass on an iPhoneor an iPad is made in America by Corning.ImputeJobs’s early mentor Mike Markkula wrote him a memo in 1979 that urged three principles. The first twowere “empathy” and “focus.” The third was an awkward word, “impute,” but it became one of Jobs’skey doctrines. He knew that people form an opinion about a product or a company on the basis of howit is presented and packaged. “Mike taught me that people do judge a book by its cover,” he told me.When he was getting ready to ship the Macintosh in 1984, he obsessed over the colors and design of thebox. Similarly, he personally spent time designing and redesigning the jewellike boxes that cradle theiPod and the iPhone and listed himself on the patents for them. He and Ive believed that unpacking wasa ritual like theater and heralded the glory of the product. “When you open the box of an iPhone oriPad, we want that tactile experience to set the tone for how you perceive the product,” Jobs said.Sometimes Jobs used the design of a machine to “impute” a signal rather than to be merely functional.For example, when he was creating the new and playful iMac, after his return to Apple, he was shown adesign by Ive that had a little recessed handle nestled in the top. It was more semiotic than useful. Thiswas a desktop computer. Not many people were really going to carry it around. But Jobs and Ive realizedthat a lot of people were still intimidated by computers. If it had a handle, the new machine would seemfriendly, deferential, and at one’s service. The handle signaled permission to touch the iMac. Themanufacturing team was opposed to the extra cost, but Jobs simply announced, “No, we’re doing this.”He didn’t even try to explain.Push for PerfectionDuring the development of almost every product he ever created, Jobs at a certain point “hit the pausebutton” and went back to the drawing board because he felt it wasn’t perfect. That happened even withthe movie Toy Story. After Jeff Katzenberg and the team at Disney, which had bought the rights to themovie, pushed the Pixar team to make it edgier and darker, Jobs and the director, John Lasseter, finallystopped production and rewrote the story to make it friendlier. When he was about to launch AppleStores, he and his store guru, Ron Johnson, suddenly decided to delay everything a few months so thatthe stores’ layouts could be reorganized around activities and not just product categories.The same was true for the iPhone. The initial design had the glass screen set into an aluminum case. OneMonday morning Jobs went over to see Ive. “I didn’t sleep last night,” he said, “because I realized that I
just don’t love it.” Ive, to his dismay, instantly saw that Jobs was right. “I remember feeling absolutelyembarrassed that he had to make the observation,” he says. The problem was that the iPhone shouldhave been all about the display, but in its current design the case competed with the display instead ofgetting out of the way. The whole device felt too masculine, task-driven, efficient. “Guys, you’ve killedyourselves over this design for the last nine months, but we’re going to change it,” Jobs told Ive’s team.“We’re all going to have to work nights and weekends, and if you want, we can hand out some guns soyou can kill us now.” Instead of balking, the team agreed. “It was one of my proudest moments atApple,” Jobs recalled.A similar thing happened as Jobs and Ive were finishing the iPad. At one point Jobs looked at the modeland felt slightly dissatisfied. It didn’t seem casual and friendly enough to scoop up and whisk away. Theyneeded to signal that you could grab it with one hand, on impulse. They decided that the bottom edgeshould be slightly rounded, so that a user would feel comfortable just snatching it up rather than liftingit carefully. That meant engineering had to design the necessary connection ports and buttons in a thin,simple lip that sloped away gently underneath. Jobs delayed the product until the change could bemade.Jobs’s perfectionism extended even to the parts unseen. As a young boy, he had helped his father builda fence around their backyard, and he was told they had to use just as much care on the back of thefence as on the front. “Nobody will ever know,” Steve said. His father replied, “But you will know.” Atrue craftsman uses a good piece of wood even for the back of a cabinet against the wall, his fatherexplained, and they should do the same for the back of the fence. It was the mark of an artist to havesuch a passion for perfection. In overseeing the Apple II and the Macintosh, Jobs applied this lesson tothe circuit board inside the machine. In both instances he sent the engineers back to make the chips lineup neatly so the board would look nice. This seemed particularly odd to the engineers of the Macintosh,because Jobs had decreed that the machine be tightly sealed. “Nobody is going to see the PC board,”one of them protested. Jobs reacted as his father had: “I want it to be as beautiful as possible, even if it’sinside the box. A great carpenter isn’t going to use lousy wood for the back of a cabinet, even thoughnobody’s going to see it.” They were true artists, he said, and should act that way. And once the boardwas redesigned, he had the engineers and other members of the Macintosh team sign their names sothat they could be engraved inside the case. “Real artists sign their work,” he said.Tolerate Only “A” PlayersJobs was famously impatient, petulant, and tough with the people around him. But his treatment ofpeople, though not laudable, emanated from his passion for perfection and his desire to work with onlythe best. It was his way of preventing what he called “the bozo explosion,” in which managers are sopolite that mediocre people feel comfortable sticking around. “I don’t think I run roughshod overpeople,” he said, “but if something sucks, I tell people to their face. It’s my job to be honest.” When Ipressed him on whether he could have gotten the same results while being nicer, he said perhaps so.“But it’s not who I am,” he said. “Maybe there’s a better way—a gentlemen’s club where we all wearties and speak in this Brahmin language and velvet code words—but I don’t know that way, because Iam middle-class from California.”
Was all his stormy and abusive behavior necessary? Probably not. There were other ways he could havemotivated his team. “Steve’s contributions could have been made without so many stories about himterrorizing folks,” Apple’s cofounder, Wozniak, said. “I like being more patient and not having so manyconflicts. I think a company can be a good family.” But then he added something that is undeniably true:“If the Macintosh project had been run my way, things probably would have been a mess.”It’s important to appreciate that Jobs’s rudeness and roughness were accompanied by an ability to beinspirational. He infused Apple employees with an abiding passion to create groundbreaking productsand a belief that they could accomplish what seemed impossible. And we have to judge him by theoutcome. Jobs had a close-knit family, and so it was at Apple: His top players tended to stick aroundlonger and be more loyal than those at other companies, including ones led by bosses who were kinderand gentler. CEOs who study Jobs and decide to emulate his roughness without understanding his abilityto generate loyalty make a dangerous mistake.“I’ve learned over the years that when you have really good people, you don’t have to baby them,” Jobstold me. “By expecting them to do great things, you can get them to do great things. Ask any member ofthat Mac team. They will tell you it was worth the pain.” Most of them do. “He would shout at ameeting, ‘You asshole, you never do anything right,’” Debi Coleman recalls. “Yet I consider myself theabsolute luckiest person in the world to have worked with him.”Engage Face-to-FaceDespite being a denizen of the digital world, or maybe because he knew all too well its potential to beisolating, Jobs was a strong believer in face-to-face meetings. “There’s a temptation in our networkedage to think that ideas can be developed by e-mail and iChat,” he told me. “That’s crazy. Creativitycomes from spontaneous meetings, from random discussions. You run into someone, you ask whatthey’re doing, you say ‘Wow,’ and soon you’re cooking up all sorts of ideas.”He had the Pixar building designed to promote unplanned encounters and collaborations. “If a buildingdoesn’t encourage that, you’ll lose a lot of innovation and the magic that’s sparked by serendipity,” hesaid. “So we designed the building to make people get out of their offices and mingle in the centralatrium with people they might not otherwise see.” The front doors and main stairs and corridors all ledto the atrium; the café and the mailboxes were there; the conference rooms had windows that lookedout onto it; and the 600-seat theater and two smaller screening rooms all spilled into it. “Steve’s theoryworked from day one,” Lasseter recalls. “I kept running into people I hadn’t seen for months. I’ve neverseen a building that promoted collaboration and creativity as well as this one.”Jobs hated formal presentations, but he loved freewheeling face-to-face meetings. He gathered hisexecutive team every week to kick around ideas without a formal agenda, and he spent everyWednesday afternoon doing the same with his marketing and advertising team. Slide shows werebanned. “I hate the way people use slide presentations instead of thinking,” Jobs recalled. “Peoplewould confront a problem by creating a presentation. I wanted them to engage, to hash things out atthe table, rather than show a bunch of slides. People who know what they’re talking about don’t needPowerPoint.”
Know Both the Big Picture and the DetailsJobs’s passion was applied to issues both large and minuscule. Some CEOs are great at vision; others aremanagers who know that God is in the details. Jobs was both. Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes says thatone of Jobs’s salient traits was his ability and desire to envision overarching strategy while also focusingon the tiniest aspects of design. For example, in 2000 he came up with the grand vision that the personalcomputer should become a “digital hub” for managing all of a user’s music, videos, photos, and content,and thus got Apple into the personal-device business with the iPod and then the iPad. In 2010 he cameup with the successor strategy—the “hub” would move to the cloud—and Apple began building a hugeserver farm so that all a user’s content could be uploaded and then seamlessly synced to other personaldevices. But even as he was laying out these grand visions, he was fretting over the shape and color ofthe screws inside the iMac.Combine the Humanities with the Sciences“I always thought of myself as a humanities person as a kid, but I liked electronics,” Jobs told me on theday he decided to cooperate on a biography. “Then I read something that one of my heroes, Edwin Landof Polaroid, said about the importance of people who could stand at the intersection of humanities andsciences, and I decided that’s what I wanted to do.” It was as if he was describing the theme of his life,and the more I studied him, the more I realized that this was, indeed, the essence of his tale.No one else in our era could better firewire together poetry and processors in a way that joltedinnovation.He connected the humanities to the sciences, creativity to technology, arts to engineering. There weregreater technologists (Wozniak, Gates), and certainly better designers and artists. But no one else in ourera could better firewire together poetry and processors in a way that jolted innovation. And he did itwith an intuitive feel for business strategy. At almost every product launch over the past decade, Jobsended with a slide that showed a sign at the intersection of Liberal Arts and Technology Streets.The creativity that can occur when a feel for both the humanities and the sciences exists in one strongpersonality was what most interested me in my biographies of Franklin and Einstein, and I believe that itwill be a key to building innovative economies in the 21st century. It is the essence of appliedimagination, and it’s why both the humanities and the sciences are critical for any society that is to havea creative edge in the future.Even when he was dying, Jobs set his sights on disrupting more industries. He had a vision for turningtextbooks into artistic creations that anyone with a Mac could fashion and craft—something that Appleannounced in January 2012. He also dreamed of producing magical tools for digital photography andways to make television simple and personal. Those, no doubt, will come as well. And even though hewill not be around to see them to fruition, his rules for success helped him build a company that notonly will create these and other disruptive products, but will stand at the intersection of creativity andtechnology as long as Jobs’s DNA persists at its core.
Stay Hungry, Stay FoolishSteve Jobs was a product of the two great social movements that emanated from the San Francisco BayArea in the late 1960s. The first was the counterculture of hippies and antiwar activists, which wasmarked by psychedelic drugs, rock music, and antiauthoritarianism. The second was the high-tech andhacker culture of Silicon Valley, filled with engineers, geeks, wireheads, phreakers, cyberpunks,hobbyists, and garage entrepreneurs. Overlying both were various paths to personal enlightenment—Zen and Hinduism, meditation and yoga, primal scream therapy and sensory deprivation, Esalen and est.An admixture of these cultures was found in publications such as Stewart Brand’s Whole Earth Catalog.On its first cover was the famous picture of Earth taken from space, and its subtitle was “access totools.” The underlying philosophy was that technology could be our friend. Jobs—who became a hippie,a rebel, a spiritual seeker, a phone phreaker, and an electronic hobbyist all wrapped into one—was afan. He was particularly taken by the final issue, which came out in 1971, when he was still in highschool. He took it with him to college and then to the apple farm commune where he lived afterdropping out. He later recalled: “On the back cover of their final issue was a photograph of an earlymorning country road, the kind you might find yourself hitchhiking on if you were so adventurous.Beneath it were the words: ‘Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.’” Jobs stayed hungry and foolish throughout hiscareer by making sure that the business and engineering aspect of his personality was alwayscomplemented by a hippie nonconformist side from his days as an artistic, acid-dropping,enlightenment-seeking rebel. In every aspect of his life—the women he dated, the way he dealt with hiscancer diagnosis, the way he ran his business—his behavior reflected the contradictions, confluence,and eventual synthesis of all these varying strands.Even as Apple became corporate, Jobs asserted his rebel and counterculture streak in its ads, as if toproclaim that he was still a hacker and a hippie at heart. The famous “1984” ad showed a renegadewoman outrunning the thought police to sling a sledgehammer at the screen of an Orwellian BigBrother. And when he returned to Apple, Jobs helped write the text for the “Think Different” ads:“Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the squareholes…” If there was any doubt that, consciously or not, he was describing himself, he dispelled it withthe last lines: “While some see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazyenough to think they can change the world are the ones who do.”PrintEmailPurchase ArticleWalter Isaacson, the CEO of the Aspen Institute, is the author of Steve Jobs and of biographies of HenryKissinger, Benjamin Franklin, and Albert Einstein.